When Things Go Missing?
December 5, 1945: Aircraft Squadron Lost In Bermuda Triangle
At 2:10 p.m., five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers comprising Flight 19 take off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine three-hour training mission. Flight 19 was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base.
Two hours after the flight began, the leader of the squadron, who had been flying in the area for more than six months, reported that his compass and back-up compass had failed and that his position was unknown. The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions.
Radio facilities on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, but none were successful. After two more hours of confused messages from the fliers, a distorted radio transmission from the squadron leader was heard at 6:20 p.m., apparently calling for his men to prepare to ditch their aircraft simultaneously because of lack of fuel.
By this time, several land radar stations finally determined that Flight 19 was somewhere north of the Bahamas and east of the Florida coast, and at 7:27 p.m. a search and rescue Mariner aircraft took off with a 13-man crew. Three minutes later, the Mariner aircraft radioed to its home base that its mission was underway.
The Mariner was never heard from again.
The disappearance of the 14 men of Flight 19 and the 13 men of the Mariner led to one of the largest air and seas searches to that date, and hundreds of ships and aircraft combed thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and remote locations within the interior of Florida. No trace of the bodies or aircraft was ever found.
Flight 19 alone would be covered again in the April 1962 issue of American Legion magazine. In it, author Allan W. Eckert wrote that the flight leader had been heard saying,
“We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white.”
He also wrote that officials at the Navy board of inquiry stated that the planes “flew off to Mars.” Sand’s article was the first to suggest a supernatural element to the Flight 19 incident.
Although naval officials maintained that the remains of the six aircraft and 27 men were not found because stormy weather destroyed the evidence, the story of the “Lost Squadron” helped cement the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of the Atlantic Ocean where ships and aircraft are said to disappear without a trace.
Other Notable incidents
The Ellen Austin supposedly came across a derelict ship, placed on board a prize crew, and attempted to sail with it to New York in 1881. According to the stories, the derelict disappeared.
The incident resulting in the single largest loss of life in the history of the US Navy not related to combat occurred when the collier USS Cyclops, carrying a full load of manganese ore and with one engine out of action, went missing without a trace with a crew of 309 sometime after March 4, 1918, after departing the island of Barbados.
Carroll A. Deering
A five-masted schooner built in 1919, the Carroll A. Deering was found hard aground and abandoned at Diamond Shoals, near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on January 31, 1921. Rumors indicated the Deering was a victim of piracy.
Flight 19 and . . .
One of the search and rescue aircraft deployed to look for them, a PBM Mariner with a 13-man crew, also disappeared. A tanker off the coast of Florida reported seeing an explosion and observed a widespread oil slick when fruitlessly searching for survivors. According to contemporaneous sources the Mariner had a history of explosions due to vapor leaks when heavily loaded with fuel.
On December 28, 1948, a Douglas DC-3 aircraft, number NC16002, disappeared while on a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami. No trace of the aircraft or the 32 people on board was ever found.
On August 28, 1963, a pair of US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft collided and crashed into the Atlantic. The Triangle version of this story specifies that they did collide and crash, but there were two distinct crash sites, separated by over 160 miles of water.
A pleasure yacht was found adrift in the Atlantic south of Bermuda on September 26, 1955; it is usually stated in the stories that the crew vanished while the yacht survived being at sea during three hurricanes.
Lawrence David Kusche, a research librarian from Arizona State University and author of The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved argued that many claims were often exaggerated, dubious or unverifiable.
Kusche concluded that:
- The number of ships and aircraft reported missing in the area was not significantly greater, proportionally speaking, than in any other part of the ocean.
- In an area frequented by tropical storms, the number of disappearances that did occur were, for the most part, neither disproportionate, unlikely, nor mysterious.
- Furthermore, many writers would often fail to mention such storms or even represent the disappearance as having happened in calm conditions when meteorological records clearly contradict this.
- The numbers themselves had been exaggerated by sloppy research. A boat’s disappearance, for example, would be reported, but its eventual (if belated) return to port may not have been.
- Some disappearances had, in fact, never happened. One plane crash was said to have taken place in 1937 off Daytona Beach, Florida, in front of hundreds of witnesses; a check of the local papers revealed nothing.
- The legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty reasoning, and sensationalism.
Top 10 Bermuda Triangle Theories
1: Human error/Pilot disorientation
2: Crazy weather patterns
3: Magnetic fields askew
6: Government testing
7: Time vortex, aka “electronic fog”
8: Methane hydrates
10: A downed 11,000-year-old comet